Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Marshal of Italy Giovanni Messe
When World War I came, like many later Italian officers of high reputation, he first proved his military talents in a major way. Most significant was his contribution to the creation of the Italian ‘shock troops’ or “Arditi” units which were crucial to the resurgence of the Italian forces and their march to final victory. Promoted to major, he was given command of an Arditi battalion and earned high praise for his conduct in the June 1918 counterattack on Mt Grappa. After the war, he continued to show his worth, commanding assault troops in Albania in 1920, winning promotion to colonel in the famous Bersaglieri, serving in the War Ministry and in 1935 he was given command of the mobile Celere Brigade. He performed with his usual ability in the Second Italo-Abyssinian War and was promoted to major general and given command of an armored division. He commanded occupation troops in Albania and after the invasion of Greece in 1940 was appointed to command a special army corps to deal with the Greek counter-attacks. The successes of his forces were one of the few bright spots of that campaign for the Italian forces.
Marshal Messe remained chief of staff until 1945 after which time he left the army, one of the few men who had earned the respect of the Allies as well as the Germans and of course his own troops who admired him for his care of them as well as his skill. He wrote two memoirs and in 1953 entered Italian politics as a senator for the Christian Democratic Party. He later founded the strongly monarchist UCI or Italian Veterans Association. In 1957, his loyalty never wavering, he was elected to parliament again as a member of a monarchist party and he was reelected in 1963 with the Liberal Party (which does not mean the same thing in Italy as it does in places like America for example). His eventful life finally came to an end when he died in Rome on December 18, 1968 at the age of 85.